Thumbnail from Florida Retail Federation video
Thumbnail from Florida Retail Federation video

Push for tax fairness, HFA urges Florida members

It’s time to push for tax fairness in Florida.

In an Action Alert to its Florida members Jan. 2, the Home Furnishings Association asked them to contact Sunshine State legislators and urge support for important tax bills.

“Florida stands almost alone as a sales-tax state that has not yet enacted a law to level the playing field for brick-and-mortar retailers – including furniture stores,” the HFA email said.

“The 2018 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, South Dakota v. Wayfair, allows states to require remote online vendors to collect taxes on sales to their residents – the same taxes that retailers must collect in their stores. Since then, nearly every state that has a sales tax has acted to make this happen. The exceptions are Missouri and Florida.

[Florida retailers want tax fairness]

More business voices are needed

“Efforts to catch up in Florida failed during the 2019 legislative session, but proponents of tax fairness are not giving up. Bills filed during the fall will be considered during the 2020 session, and with enough business support they stand a good chance of passing. Your voice is needed.

“The Florida Retail Federation is spearheading this campaign. It has launched a Fairness for Florida website, with an explanatory video and, most importantly, tools to help you send emails to your state senators and representatives. Please write to them and urge them to support SB 126 and HB 159. Ask your friends, your employees and fellow business owners and managers to write.

“Your Home Furnishings Association strongly supports this effort. You have out-of-state competitors who don’t pay Florida taxes, or employ Florida residents, or contribute to Florida charities. Because of that, they undercut you on price when they sell furniture to your customers. Tell your elected legislators that you want this to stop. This does not mean raising taxes. These are existing taxes. The only issue is that many of these remote sellers aren’t collecting them. It is time for tax fairness.”

Come forward about ADA threats

The Action Alert raised a second issue:

“Some of you have received demand letters from lawyers claiming to represent visually impaired clients who contend they cannot use your business website. They say this violates the Americans with Disabilities Act, and they want a payoff or else they will take you to court.”

It’s not that retailers aren’t working hard to make their websites accessible. The problem is that there is no clear standard to determine what’s necessary to meet ADA requirements.

Florida is one of the busiest states in the country for these ADA claims. Most businesses settle quietly, but a better strategy may be to resist.

“Our Government Relations Action Team, our Washington lobbyist, some of our Florida members and our staff are working to find a remedy,” the Action Alert said. “Sen. Marco Rubio, who chairs the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business & Entrepreneurship, is interested in helping.”

HFA’s government relations liaison, Doug Clark, asked members to contact him if this has happened to them. If Sen. Rubio hears about more Florida retailers having this trouble, he may feel more urgency.

“Get involved,” the alert urged. “Your participation may help us get to a solution.”

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